You probably don’t like it when someone is pressuring you. Your feelings might range anywhere from annoyed to angry, and it can result in you being less effective at home or work. In essence pressure can stop you from getting the job done and have some nasty side effects. If they had emotions, your arteries would feel exactly the same way. Too much pressure puts strain on your arteries and can lead to some health-related side effects that you would rather sidestep.
Your blood travels through your body via arteries. As it moves, there is naturally some pressure that is applied to the walls of the arteries—this is blood pressure. As the pressure is a natural side effect of blood flowing through your veins, having a blood pressure simply means that you are alive; having high blood pressure means that you need to make some changes in order to reduce it.
How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Having your blood pressure taken is a very common procedure that happens at routine physicals and other doctor visits. A cuff will be placed around your arm and then inflated. Inflating the cuff stops blood flow to your arm for a very brief period. The medical staff member will then deflate the cuff and listen to your blood as it starts flowing again in order to determine your blood pressure. Blood pressure has two components:
- Systolic pressure- This is the amount of force applied to artery walls as the heart contracts, preparing to send blood out from the heart to your extremities. This is the top number in your blood pressure reading.
- Diastolic pressure- This is the measurement of the force applied to artery walls as your heart releases blood into your arteries for disbursement. It is the bottom number on your final blood pressure reading.
Once the test has been performed, two numbers will be reported to you, your systolic pressure over your diastolic pressure. Healthy systolic pressure is below 120 but is not considered high until it hits 140. Healthy diastolic pressure is below 80 but is not considered high until it is over 90. If your blood pressure falls anywhere in between 120-139/80-89 then you do not have high blood pressure—also called hypertension—but you do need to be aware that your blood pressure is approaching high levels and you should make some lifestyle changes.
How Can I Lower my Blood Pressure?
There are many ways to lower blood pressure. Your doctor will make some specific recommendations but expect to hear about:
- Lifestyle changes- Once again, personal habits can get in the way of health. Some controllable lifestyle factors that raise blood pressure include:
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet, especially one that includes over 1500 mg of sodium per day
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- Stress reduction- This may be controllable through changing lifestyle factors such as avoiding stressful situations. For some stress seems to be harder to avoid than for others, regardless of lifestyle. If this sounds like you, then yoga, meditation and exercise can all be good ways to reduce stress.
- Medication- There are literally hundreds of blood pressure medications available. Talk to your doctor about your health and lifestyle and hey will prescribe the medication(s) that are best for you. You may have to take more than one.
Generally this would be the portion of the blog where we discuss symptoms. Truthfully high blood pressure does not have symptoms that are easily identifiable or even universally agreed upon. This is why high blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer. Some factors have been associated with high blood pressure such as:
- Buzzing in the ears
- Spotty vision
- Irregular heartbeat
Again, most often high blood pressure goes unnoticed, so it is important to get regular medical checkups that include a blood pressure test. Blood pressure will be evaluated as part of your annual physical, so make sure that you schedule one and go see the doctor. High blood pressure harms the arteries and is directly associated with heart attack and stroke. Identifying it early is the best way to keep high blood pressure in check.
The Heart Institute at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point will be providing free Blood Pressure and Body Comp Screenings throughout the month of February. Please visit Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point online or call Consult-A-Nurse® at 1-888-741-5119 for more information.